Significance of Zambian/African Traditional Kinship Bonds by Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Professor of Sociology


Kinship relationships, networks, and the bonds are probably the most important traditional foundation for social relationship among Zambians and Africans. Kinship are all those important fundamental social connections that happen immediately when any Zambian or African is born. It is the connections that instantly happen when 2 individuals, a man and woman, get married. The kinship relationships happen because of marriage or birth. In traditional Zambian/African societies, marriage was never just the young individual man woman getting married because they are in love; but it was more important that the marriage was the uniting of the man and woman’s families. This article will describe the traditional Zambian/African kinship relationships using Tumbuka terms as examples. The second discussion is the importance or significance of kinship in traditional society. Last, the article will discuss how these kinship bonds are still important today.

Kinship Relationships and Terms

As soon as you are born in a Zambian/African family, of course you will have amama (mother) and adada (father). All your siblings are dumbu or adumbu; which means sibling of the opposite sex; akulu or anung’una; older or younger  sisters or brothers. The term adumbu is used for your sibling of the opposite sex  with gender distinction embedded in the situational conversation.

All your Father’s Brothers are your adada or your fathers. All your Father’s Sisters are ankhazi or aunts. All your Mother’s Brothers are your asimbweni or uncles. All your Mother’s Sisters are your amama or Mothers. All your Father’s Brother’s children are adumbu or your sisters or brothers if the sibling is opposite gender to you.. All your Father’s Brothers’ sisters children are your vyala or cousins. Your Mother’s Sisters’ children are your vyala or cousins. Your Mother’s Brothers’ children are your vyala or cousins who you joke with and may even be encouraged to marry.

All your Father’s and Mother’s parents are agogo or grandfathers and grandmothers. All your Grandfathers’ and Grandmothers’ sisters and brothers are your agogo or grandfathers and grandmothers.

If you are a man or groom, when you get married, all your wife’s siblings and the people she calls adumbu or her brothers and akulu or anung’una; older or younger sisters are your mulamu or sister-in-laws or brother-in-laws. You become mkweni or son-in-law to her parents and all the people she calls amama and adada or mother and father in her kinship group.

If you are a woman or bridegroom, when you get married, all your husband’s siblings and all the people he calls adumbu or his sisters and akulu or anung’una; older or younger brothers are your mulamu or sister-in-laws or brother-in-laws. You become mkamwana or daughter-in-law to his parents and all the people he calls amama and adada or mother and father in his entire kinship group. The parents of the groom and bridegroom are asebele to each other. All of the above describe kinship relationships that have to do with both your mother and father’s or parents’ generations.

These next kinship relationships describe your own generation. All your akulu (younger) and mnung’una or older or younger’s Brothers’ Children are your sons and daughters. All your adumbu or sister’s or brother’s children are baphwa nephews or nieces.

These kinship relationships are difficult to sort out when one is required to  describe kinship relationships between two families; those of the groom and bridegroom. These relationships become more complex when families have polygamous marriages involving large extended families may be involving a hundred men, women, and children.

Significance of the Kinship

The kinship relationship through the family and clan your born into provides support from when the individual is a child, an adult, and up to old age. Besides the 2 biological parents of mother and father, the bond of kinship network provided individual identity and a source of vast support involving clans in two different villages. These two  villages sometimes may have a population of 300 men, women, and children in each  of the villages  of the groom and bridegroom.

The kinship relationships embedded in the clans and villages provided many advantages in life. Kinship provided the individual a place to live, food, clothing, social guidance, land for farming and provision of food, social support during difficult times such as death, being orphaned and during illness. In the 1800s when wars and conflict were common, kinship provided security from  threats from external sources from the village such as war and wild animals. Kinship provided you with help during marriage in terms of providing lobola, celebrations such as marriage weddings, child birth, and support when attending school.

Perhaps the most important aspect of kinship relationships and terms that are used is that they defined obligations to the people who shared the bonds. Fathers and mothers treated all their sons and daughters warmly with  obligations to support all the their daughters and sons with love. Brothers and sisters supported each other and enjoyed their relationships and especially obligations. One thing which is very significant is that in all the kinship relationships described, there were never any step fathers, step mothers, step sisters, step brothers, or half brother or half sister, or adopted son, adopted daughter, and adopted niece. Of course if people ask how the two people are related, they may explain some details of the background mentioning names. But the reality that someone was not biologically related to you, was never the focus of the kinship relationships and bonds. This is why in the Zambian/African traditional societies, even today, it is possible to have so many fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers.

Kinship Relationship Today

Although many of the traditional Zambian/African kinship terms are used, their used has been vastly urbanized and Westernized. Kinship terms such as mother, father, daughter, son, nieces and nephews are used mainly in the small nuclear biological monogamous family. Kinship relationships in the extended family outside the immediate nuclear family are less emphasized and less prominent. The use of uncle, niece, step-mother, step-sister, and half-brother are now very common in urban Zambia with very little link to their traditional uses as described. This may signal the weakening of kinship bonds that were very strong all the way to the 1960s and 1970s.

Tembo, Mayovu, Nyoni, and Banda Kinship Clans Bond by Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology


Have you ever asked yourself:  “How are the Tembos, the Mayovus, the Nyonis, and the Bandas related?”  You might have a good idea if you are more than fifty years old and lived in the village in Lundazi at one time.  But if you are an independence baby who was born sometime after 1964 or never lived in the village for a long time, you may have a very limited idea regarding how we are related.  Over the last seven years, (from 1988 to1994) I have conducted interviews with a number of our elders to record how the history of the kinship relationships occurred.  The first interviews occurred after the funeral of the late Calistus Mayovu in November 1988.  My aunt, the late aTirabirenji Tembo (died in 1992) and aNya Chitima came to our house in Handsworth court and spent about two hours.  The second interviews took place on Sunday July 12, 1996, at Zibalwe Village with my father Sani Zibalwe Tembo and  Dikilani Mayovu.

Meeting of men Tembo, Mayovu, Nyoni, and Banda Clans members on a Sunday afternoon in May 2016
Sani Zibalwe Tembo of Zibalwe Village

There are three main parts to this description.  The first is a general summary of how and when our ancestors came to the area that now occupies Ciroba (Bandas), Zibalwe(Tembos), and Seleta(Mayovus).  The second part will be a systematic description of all the relatives; who married who, when, and where they lived and the villages.  The last part will be a discussion of the future of the Tembo, Mayovu, Nyoni, and Banda kinship bond connections, why you should care about our kinship history, and what you can do.

The History

During the second half of the 19th century (1850 to 1900) the Ngoni people had a tremendous impact on the lives of the people of Southern Africa.  As Mzilikazi fled north from Chaka, the fierce Emperor of the Zulu people in Natal in South Africa, no one would have guessed that those events would eventually affect the Tembos’, Mayovus’, Nyonis’, and Bandas’.  As the Ngoni tribes migrated north they fought, conquered, and incorporated many indigenous peoples into the Ngoni influence.  Groups of the Ngoni tribes migrated through Zimbabwe, Mozambique through Malawi to Southern Tanzania and eventually came back and settled in the present Chief Mberwa in Northern Malawi.

Joseph John Mayovu of Seleta Village (JJ Mayovu)

Before I describe what happened next, it is very important that you realize that in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s, the present border that separates the Tumbukas in Lundazi did not exist.  Once the Ngoni settled in an area, they had the policy of sending what were known as Impis to survey surrounding territory to determine who was there and whether they could be incorporated into the Ngoni Kingdoms or jurisdictions.

It was in this context that Zwangendaba, from the present Chief Mberwa’s area, sent Impis to explore the area which now is settled by the Tembos, Mayovus, Nyonis, and Bandas i.e. Zibalwe, Ciroba, Bilapacande and Seleta.

Although African traditional societies did not keep calendars as known today, events that are described seem to have happened between 1850 and the 1920s.


The Tembo, Mayovu, Nyoni, and Banda dynasty of kinship relationship are traced back to Ciroba Village where two women who were sisters; Ziryeci Phiri and Mgonkha Phiri.  Ziryeci was the older sister and her umbilical cord name was Nthembo and Mgonkha was the younger sister.

Ziryeci Phiri married a Ngoni Impi from Kasungu in present day Malawi[1].  His name was Holoholo Bilima.  The couple gave birth to a daughter whose name was Gabani “Bilima.  Gabani Bilima first got married to a man by the name of Kwamthiba Manda.  They had one child; a daughter by the name Kabuthu (Vayeya) Manda (My father’s mother).  It is not known what happened to this marriage.  They may have divorced, separated or widowed.  Gabani Bilima was married for the second time to a man by the name of Makanyanga Mayovu.  Gabani Bilima and Makanyanga Mayovu had four children; Yohane (John) Yamise Mayovu (son), Movete Mayovu (son) daughter aNyacitima?, Fani Mayovu (daughter), and the last born David Mayovu who is said to have been very cruel and so disobedient that he refused to be sent on errands by elders.

Overs Banda of Chiroba Village

Yohane (John) Mayovu married three wives.  The first wife was Jesi Nya Banda and had five children with her; Dickson (Dikirani) Mayovu (son), Noah (Kaswatu) Mayovu (son), Elija (Awise Binkhe) Mayovu (son), Fani Mayovu (daughter), and Lyson Mayovu.

The second wife was Leya Zimba (Mtuma).  He had only one child with her; Langford Mayovu (son).  Awise Fwanipo.

The third wife was Dolase Nya Zimba who had three children; Elevasi Mayovu (daughter), Joseph John Mayovu (JJ) (son), and Mazghanga Mayovu (daughter).

Mgonkha Phiri married a man who was a Ngoni Impi by the name of Seleta Nyoni.  He left many other Nyonis in Malawi near Kasungu.  The couple had two sons; Andreya Curazeru (Chiwurazeru) Nyoni and Yofete Zemba Nyoni.  These two had tremendous influence on my father.  Curazeru and Zemba are names that I constantly heard when my father described his youth and formative years growing up at Seleta Village.  These are people who had tremendous wisdom steeped in Tumbuka traditions.

Mwizenge Sani Tembo of Zibalwe Village

Curazeru married three wives.  The first wife’s name was Masitele whose marriage was through chokolo as Curazeru’s kin brother had died.  Curazeru had five children with his first wife Masitele; Saini Nyoni (son), Leya (Mtuma) nya Nyoni (daughter), Visi (Amose) Nyoni (son), (he is married in Zimbabwe and has two wives) Sara (Faginala) Nyoni (daughter) married John Benga Senior – Nya Banda UTH, John Banda (Benga Junior), and the last child Curazeru had with this wife was Selina Nyoni (daughter).

The second wife was Nyarozghe Banda.  Curazeru had two sons with this wife; Kakoba Nyoni (son) now of Bilapacande Village (Matambe), and Edward Nyoni (Harrison Nyoni).  Curazeru had several children with his third wife.  But they all died.  The wife died childless.

Man left of Bilapacande Village; the Nyoni Clan village

Yofete Zemba Nyoni married two wives.  The first wife was Pamkeya Carumako who had four children; Fage Mtamandanji Nyoni (daughter), Emeli Nyoni (daughter), Rebeka Nyoni (Ovase Banda’s mother), Machona Nyoni (son) Luka’s father.

The second wife was Guske Matimba who had three children; Phikisoni Nyoni (son), Yaunda Nyoni (daughter), and Tafwanji Njabene Nyoni (daughter).

Zibalwe Tembo

Chief Magodi was sent by Zwangendaba to establish a kingdom.  He was given several Ngoni Impis to accompany the chief.  Mumbwe Tembo was one of the many young members of the Impis assigned to accompany the Chief.  In the 1870s Mumbwe Tembo married a woman Mwaziona Mkamanga.  The couple had only one child a son whose name was Zibalwe Tembo.  The young boy Zibalwe Tembo was old enough to go to the First World War in 1918 but only as a carrier of ammunition.  This means he may have been between sixteen to eighteen years old.

After Mumbwe Tembo died, Mwaziona was Chokoloed (married by Mumbwe’s closest brother or male kin).  Mwaziona got married for the second time to Msimuko.  Mwaziona had three children; Maggy Msimuko (daughter), Phangisa Msimuko (daughter), and Ruth Msimuko (daughter).  The Msimuko who married Mwaziona came to Zibalwe Village with other Msimukos who were children from another marriage; Jeremani Msimuko (son), and Vitengwerechi Msimuko (daughter).  Zibalwe Tembo gave lobola for the marriages for the Msimukos.

Ruth Msimuko gave birth to a Nyamswesi and John Rundu.

Bina Manda (the Mandas) and Mwandila were given birth by Phangisa Msimuko.

Bina Ngulube (the Ngulubes) was given birth by Maggy Msimuko.

Zibalwe Tembo had three wives.  The first wife was Mkhuta Nyanga (Chona in Malawi and had one child Pyera Tembo).  She had five children?; Mateyo Tembo (son), Lizi Tembo ( daughter), Paulosi Tembo (son); were twins but one of them died.  Sinele Tembo (daughter), Sajeni Tembo (son) he lived in Johannesburg in South Africa for more than twenty years.  Returned to Zambia in the early 1970s and died in Kitwe.  He is believed to have left a wife and grown children in South Africa.

The second wife was Kabuthu Vayeya Manda who had three children.  Njiramanda Tembo (son).  As a grown man he simply disappeared one day without a trace.  Tangu (Edesi) Tirabirenji Tembo (daughter), were born twins but one died.  The last born was Sani Tembo (born in 1924) who was born in an unusual way Chavunama.  He was born face down which was believed not to be normal.

The third wife was Tinkhira Maso.  She married Zibalwe Tembo a much older woman.  She had no children.  Her maiden name was Tinkhiramaso Tembo.  But Zibalwe changed her last name or chiwongo to Phiri.  This was because Zibalwe did not want to look like he had married his sister.

 CHIROBA was a very big village

Holoholo Bilima married another woman whose last maiden name was Banda.  He had a daughter, Jeni Nya Bilima who married Banda of Luzi village and the couple gave birth to Lameck Banda from Msuka Village.  Ciroba had many clans.  Counting only the heads of clans.

  1. Nyoni
  2. Bilima
  3. Nkhoma
  4. Kacali
  5. Nthaka
  6. Cidambo Nthaka
  7. Jeremani Banda
  8. Filimoni Kanyinji

Children had children and the village at one time could easily have had more than five hundred people.

ZIBALWE Village was also big.  It had such clans as:

  1. Tembo
  2. Msimuko
  3. Mkamanga
  4. Chulu
  5. Nyirenda
  6. Banda – Boyole
  7. Nyirongo
  8. Chungu
  9. Msuka
  10. Mbale
  11. Mvula
  12. Chima
  13. Phiri

In 1923 there were only three villages near present Zibalwe Village.  But by 1930 villages that were near and surrounding Zibalwe were Gundu, Kapinda, Ngwata, Mthiwa, Ciroba, and Burwe.

Post Script

This brief synopsis is what I have been wanting to do for a long time.  It is a very exciting project.  As you can see, not everybody’s kinship relationship is identified in detail.  For individuals born after 1945, we might want to identify what year and date they were born.  If you know any more details, whether you are a member of this kinship network or not, please send these to me as soon as you can so that we will be able to write a more detailed genealogy.

Since the early 1960s up to this day, the village has always held a special significance in my life.  As life is changing, there is an urgent need to preserve some aspects of our village roots for the future children.  Please send details to:

Dr. Mwizenge S. Tembo

Bridgewater College, Box 74

Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology

Bridgewater, VIRGINIA 22812

United States of America

[1] Normally I would have found it unnecessary to explain this fact.  But with the present excitement, anxiety, and controversy about who is a foreigner or indigenous Zambian leading up to the Presidential and General Elections, I am compelled to state the obvious.  Prior to European colonialism and the Scramble for Africa in 1885, the present day border between Malawi and Zambia did not exist.  As such our ancestors had open Virgin land on which they settled and freely explored.  Europeans did such an “excellent job” in dividing us that today we squabble about who is indigenous and who is not often based on these borders which were created by European colonialists who couldn’t have cared less about our ancestors.  This may be a legitimate debate today, but in the 1800s, I marvel at the reality that our ancestors must have enjoyed incredible freedom of movement as pioneers.

You can also send E-mail:  [email protected]

                  Fax:  540-828-5479

Bridgewater College

Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology

Tembo, Mayovu, Nyoni, Banda Kinship


Mwizenge S. Tembo*, Ph.D.

August 19, 1996

Tel Office #540-828-5351     Home 540-828-4467     Fax #540-828-5479

E-Mail Address:  [email protected]

*Mwizenge S. Tembo obtained his B. A. in Sociology and Psychology at University of Zambia in 1976, M.A., Ph.D. at Michigan State University in Sociology in 1987.  He was a Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Zambia from 1977 to 1990.  During this period he conducted extensive research and field work in rural Zambia particularly in the Eastern and Southern Provinces of the country.  He is currently Assistant professor of Sociology at Bridgewater College in Virginia, USA.

[1] Normally I would have found it unnecessary to explain this fact.  But with the present excitement, anxiety, and controversy about who is a foreigner or indigenous Zambian leading up to the Presidential and General Elections, I am compelled to state the obvious.  Prior to European colonialism and the Scramble for Africa in 1885, the present day border between Malawi and Zambia did not exist.  As such our ancestors had open Virgin land on which they settled and freely explored.  Europeans did such an “excellent job” in dividing us that today we squabble about who is indigenous and who is not often based on these borders which were created by European colonialists who couldn’t have cared less about our ancestors.  This may be a legitimate debate today, but in the 1800s, I marvel at the reality that our ancestors must have enjoyed incredible freedom of movement as pioneers.

Making Breakfast Msele with Tendela Peanut Powder by Mwizenge S. Tembo

Maize or corn is the staple food for Zambians. As a result, there are over a dozen different types of food you can cook from maize. Nshima is the main staple food cooked from maize mealie-meal. One food that is cooked is breakfast from maize msele wotendela with fresh raw peanuts or groundnuts powder. Tendela is a unique or special Zambian traditional cuisine in which while cooking raw freshly pounded peanuts or groundnuts powder is added to any food.

In rural areas and even some areas in urban Zambia, a woman will start the process of making breakfast early in the morning. She will start pounding the maize with thuli (mortar) and musi (pestle). She will pepeta (winnow) the pounded maize using chihengo container and make msele or what Americans call hominy. She will also pound fresh raw dry peanuts pepeta or winnowing or seaving it using chihengo. This makes nthendelo or raw peanut powder. This the recipe:

Msele wo Tendela

For a family of 5

2 Cups Msele maize

3 Cups of Fresh Peanut Powder

Half a teaspoon salt

6 Cups of water

Pour the 6 cups of water in a medium size thick pot. Heat the water on high until it comes to a boil. Lower heat to medium and pour the 2 cups of msele maize into the pot. Let the msele maize boil for 45 minutes adding more water if necessary as it boils. Taste the msele maize to make sure it is soft. Add the 3 cups of freshly made raw peanut powder into the pot. Add the half teaspoon of salt. Use a mthiko cooking stick to stir the msele to mix it thoroughly with the peanut powder. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes stirring the msele every 5 minutes to prevent burning at the bottom. Add more water as needed as the msele simmers. Serve and eat with a spoon. Some people will add a little sugar.

Cooked Msele wo Tendela

Recommended: Msele wo Tendela is best eaten without adding anything else to it as the flavor and aroma of the cooked peanut powder is the most delicious taste of eating msele.

Journey to Chasela by Mwizenge S. Tembo

After my father completed his teacher training at Katete Teacher Training College, his first school assignment was at Chasela Primary School in the Luangwa Valley among the Bisa people. At the time the valley had numerous wild animals roaming like Africa had been probably for thousands of years. Lions, buffaloes, impalas, hyenas, monkeys, leopards, and elephants were everywhere night and day. Humans and deadly encounters with wild animals were common.

The Cape Buffalo; one of the meanest and most dangerous wild animals

Sometime in late 1959, my mother arrived back at our village. I had lived with my grandparents for two years; first herding goats and later doing Sub A at Boyole School. My mother had come to get me to join the family  at Chasela Primary School.

We caught the colonial Northern Rhodesia Central African Road Services (CARS) bus at Hoya along Chama-Lundazi Road. My mother and I spent a night at the rest house in Lundazi. It was a huge building with tiles for a roof. It had upstairs and downstairs. It cost you six pence for upstairs and 3 pence per night for downstairs. The following day at noon, we boarded the bus for Chief Mwanya. The road was narrow and bumpy at first. Later on the bus picked up speed. It was going so fast and trees were zooming by so close to the road I wondered how the driver missed crushing into them. The repeated bumps, swerves, up and downs were so violent and nerve jarring that adults, including my mother, were vomiting out of the bus windows. I stood all the way and was enjoying the experience. At 3:00 pm that afternoon, we arrived at Lumimba Catholic Mission station. We all came out for refreshments. There were streaks of vomit all along the bus outside. None of the adults could eat because their stomachs were so upset. My mother bought me nshima with chicken and I ate it all cleaning the plate. At 6:00 pm that evening we arrived at Chief Mwanya. My mother and I spent a night at one of the chief’s guest houses since the Chief knew my father as the Head Teacher  at Chasela Primary School.

Early the following morning, my mother and I set off on foot for Chasela Primary School. But first she went into the bush and broke a small branch of the mnyongoroka tree. She stripped the fiber and broke the stick into 4 pieces which she threw in all four directions; North, South, West, and East. My mother was carrying a bundle on her head of our clothes and blankets. I was small so my mother had to walk at my slow small boy’s pace.

By 9:00 am, the searing valley heat was on and we were walking bare feet. By noon, our drinking water was gone, I was trotting as the ground was scalding my feet and I was crying and asking my mother to carry me. You could smell and see the seething heat. The earth, dust and dirt were sizzling hot. My feet and legs were aching and threatening to turn into jelly every step I took. My mother kept saying we were almost there and “your dad has nshima with chicken ready and plenty of drinking water”. At one point my mother pointed to a distance where we could see some baboons and herd of buffalo.

I was by now bawling with both my hands behind my head and pleading with my mother for us to stop so I could rest. She said we could not afford to stop, as there were too many lions, leopards, and hyenas that came out at night. We could be meat. This was true. We had to get home before dark.

She kept encouraging me to walk a few more yards with: “The house is just beyond those bushes”. At 3:00 pm, we finally arrived at the house. I had walked ten miles in seething heat and bare foot. I collapsed, did not eat dinner and slept all night. The following day I could hardly walk as my feet and legs were swollen. This is where I was to live for the next 2 years; a place among the Bisa people in the Luangwa Valley with incredible wild life everywhere everyday. Incidentally when my boys were small they used to like the “bus ride to Chasela” with daddy. I would put them on my knee, bump them violently up and down, half tip them over on sharp bends, and they would pretend to throw up like grandma did. They all loved the ride and begged me to give them the ride to Chasela any spare moment.

HIV/AIDS to Corona Virus: Historical Perspective by a Zambian by Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Professor of Sociology


I was doing my Ph. D. in Sociology in the United States under the sponsored scholarship of the famous University of Zambia Staff Development Fellowship. The year was 1983. The news was buzzing and spreading like wild fire. A new killer disease that was sexually transmitted, attacked the immune system. It was killing mostly gay or homosexual men in the United States. I bought the Newsweek Magazine and read the whole story. When I read the New African magazine, the report said this new Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was affecting mainly heterosexual men and women in Africa. In sensational reports, the Western media identified Uganda as the AIDS ground zero in Africa. I was alarmed. I knew that if this new disease reached Zambia, it was going to be a disaster. Many Zambians would die including my relatives.

Mwizenge S.Tembo with Corona Virus mask

I went to work. I bought a few copies of the Newsweek magazine with the article and mailed it to as many relatives as possible. As a patriotic Zambian, I sent a copy to my fellow Zambian lecturers at University of Zambia and even Ministry of Health. Given the havoc that the Corona Virus pandemic is playing in the world today, this is a story of how this author alone in his own way tried to help to fight the HIV/AIDS in Zambia over a period 15 years from 1983 to 1998.

First, I will explain why I am writing this article. Second, I will describe what I did on my personal level to help fight HIV/AIDS and what I witnessed about HIV/AIDS in Zambia from 1987 to 1989. Third, I will describe how I used my scientific knowledge and skills to investigate HIV/AIDS. Lastly, what I think today about the Corona Virus in Zambia and the global world.

Why Write this Article?

When the news about the Corona Virus spread in January 2020, the first questions I asked myself are: “How many Zambians lived through and experienced the terrible  HIV?AIDS pandemic in the 1980s?” “How many 18.3 million Zambians beside myself, are alive today who may have lived through the HIV/AIDS pandemic?” 

According to the Zambia Population Census of 2010, the country ten years ago had a population of 13 million. The proportion of the country that was under 15 years old was 45.4%, those between 15 and 24 years old was 20.8%, those between 25 to 54 years old was 27.04% and those from 55 to 64  years were only 2.8% and those above 65 years old are even smaller at 2.6%. Zambians who were born before 1965 or are 55 years or older today in 2020, constitute an estimate of 5.4%  which is about 972,000 Zambians. Those who were born before 1955 or are 65 years and older are only 2.6% or 468,000 Zambians.

These are the few of the 18.3 million Zambians who experienced the crisis of the wide spread illnesses and deaths of too many close relatives, friends, schoolmates, and workmates from HIV/AIDS crisis. If these people are alive, they may provide advice to younger Zambians and even government on how to respond to the Corona virus. A large population of Zambians, who were born after 1990 or are 30 years old, constitute 66.2% or 11.9 million Zambians who never lived through the HIV/AIDS crisis. I hope this article can provide a perspective about the past of HIV/AIDS and the present Corona Virus crisis although the 2 pandemics are not the same.

HIV/AIDS Fight 1987-1989

As I was pursuing my Ph. D., I began to read as much information as I could about the epidemic. I mailed a lot of the information to relatives, friends, in Lusaka as well as in the rural area to my home villages in Lundazi and the Ministry of Health. I arrived back in Zambia after my Ph. D in 1987 to resume my work as Research Fellow at the then Institute of African Studies of the University of Zambia. People were dying. I lost count how many times I went to the Leopards Hill cemetery in Lusaka to bury relatives, friends, and workmates. Those were very sad years in Zambia.

HIV/AIDS Prevention message near present Manda Hill Mall along the Great East Road in Lusaka in 1993.

Of the numerous deaths I witnessed, one shocked me for its sudden swiftness. This death was to be one amongst the numerous that was to anger and infuriate me about some of the tragic and unfortunate panic, hysteria and myths that surrounded HIV/AIDS pandemic at the time.

Virtually anybody in Zambia at the time who died after two days, six months, three months, or one week of illness was assumed to have died of HIV-AIDS disease. There were no reliable widespread HIV tests yet. The disgracing and shameful assumption was that the person or their spouse was sexually promiscuous. Some of the deaths of friends and relatives stood out.

This friend was at his prime. I will call him George. He was married and had four children. He drank. George looked healthy and was not the sickly type. He fell ill on Monday. We, his close friends and fellow employees, visited him on Wednesday morning at his house. George was sitting up in his living room and in a surprisingly lively cheerful way, described his symptoms as fever. He had opted to go to a traditional healer in one of the nearby compounds. He explained that he was given an herb that made him purge to cleanse his stomach. He said he thought he was going to be all right. By Friday that week though, George was so sick that he was admitted at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH). I visited him in the hospital ward on that April sunny Saturday afternoon.

HIV/AIDS Prevention message near the North-End of Cairo along the Great North Road in Lusaka in 1993.

The hospital ward was relatively quiet,  bright, and immaculately clean. I was shocked that this man who had looked very healthy only Wednesday that week was suddenly fighting for his life. George’s throat was almost swollen shut. He was making loud, hissing, desperate breathing noises. Something was swollen on his neck the size of a golf ball. Later I was to find out from his official death certificate that this was a swollen lymph node. I stood there by his hospital bed, stunned at the sudden turn of events. After a while, he opened his eyes and saw me. He hissed when he tried to mouth something but nothing came out. I gestured a finger to my lips that he shouldn’t say anything. George continued to breathe struggling at every breath making a loud crooking sound. I will remember that awful sound for the rest of my life. After a while, I took two steps back to leave. George desperately stretched and reached his hand out to me. I held his hand instinctively.

“D-o-n’t ….go……” he hoarsely hissed after breathing in very deeply making a big effort. I felt guilty for wanting to leave. He looked scared of being left alone. I stood there until his wife came back from an errand. She and I exchanged some brief words and I left.

The next day on Sunday at noon, as my family and I were eating lunch, word came that my friend had died the previous night. If there was anything for me that was later to epitomize the painful tragedy of some of the hysteria that might have been the botched HIV-AIDS “diagnosis” or some of the erroneous beliefs, it was this death.

Later, a clinic attendant who knew George the deceased friend said the friend may have had a normal bacteria infection. But George may have panicked fearing he had HIV-AIDS and delayed getting immediate and standard antibiotic treatment. He may have sought herbal treatment from a traditional healer (there is nothing wrong with this) out of desperation fearing and believing he had HIV-AIDS which had no cure in the modern hospital at the time.

My HIV/AIDS Scientific Paper

In December 1989, I sadly left Zambia to work in the United States. I began to read more deeply and widely about the scientific controversy about  HIV/AIDS. The more I read the history of pandemics, human anthropological biological evolutionary aspects of viruses and bacteria, about some of the myths and hysteria around HIV/AIDS, the more I got infuriated. What made me angry is not so much that many Zambians were dying of this new disease, but that too many might have been dying because of anxiety, possible misdiagnosis, and misinformation. I knew that if some of the information I knew was spread widely among Zambians, many lives would have been saved.

Since there was no modern drug yet that could cure the  HIV  virus that caused AIDS, I spent some time investigating and researching for some herbal possible treatment. It was very difficult at the time because the internet did not exist. I wrote a 30 page scientific paper that I thought could be published in African journals. The paper is titled: The Deadly Fallacy of the HIV-AIDS-Death Hypothesis: Exposing the Epidemic that Is Not.   The journals rejected the well-written scientific paper that would have helped us educated elite Africans understand the HIV/AIDS controversy better at the time. I sent this paper to so many friends. Twenty-four years later, I now understand very clearly why the paper was rejected for publication. Academic journals are very conservative. No editor or reviewers will endorse or publish something that is new and controversial that even they themselves do not understand. It is a huge risk that even probably I, if I had been as a reviewer and editor, would not have taken.

The Corona Virus in Zambia and the Global World.

After having lived through the HIV/AIDS pandemic that still exists in Zambia to day and Global World, my advice to my fellow Zambians is to take the Corona Virus seriously. The 1908s did not have the internet, but myths, misinformation, and racist views about HIV/AIDS toward Africans from the Western world were still spread through the Western media at that time. This infuriated me but I was powerless to do anything. Today the internet is spreading myths and conspiracy theories about the Corona Virus. Some African leaders are already saying it is a hoax and a joke since there are very few cases so far in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa. This misinformation is dangerous. HIV/AIDS was and is spread primarily through sex. The Corona Virus is spread primarily  from droplets from breathing. So all it takes is for one infected person to infect dozens of people in a crowded bus, restaurant, bar, train, nigh club, family dwelling, especially singing in a packed church, wedding, shopping Mall, and packed market. Hundreds of people can be infected this way. Wear a mask, wash your hands, use sanitizer, wipe surfaces with bleach, wear gloves, and avoid crowded places.  This is not a hoax. The Corona Virus is real.